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How to Improve Your Emotional Health: Insights from a Psychologist

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A Psychologist Explains How to Improve Your Emotional Health

If you or a loved one engages in the practice of hoarding, know you are not alone. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 2.6% of all Americans – more than 8 million people – struggle with the disorder. While this behavior is common, it was only accepted as a psychiatric disorder in 2013.

What is Hoarding?

Hoarding is a mental health disorder in which someone has an ongoing compulsion to hold onto their belongings, which causes them to accumulate a significant number of possessions and clutter. In addition to being hard for the individual to part with their items, “the person often has a strong desire to acquire items in the first place,” explains Brad Schmidt, a distinguished research professor of psychology at Florida State University.

Why Do People Hoard?

The exact causes have not been defined but are thought to be a combination of factors. “Hoarding disorder is believed to involve both genetic and environmental factors,” says Marla Deibler, a clinical psychologist based in Princeton, New Jersey, who specializes in the treatment of hoarding disorder.

Genetic Factors

Individuals with family members who hoard often have similar difficulties and are at increased risk for developing the condition.

Environmental Factors

One could have been raised in a so-called “scarcity mindset” where everything was taught to have value or be useful at some point. Inventory belongings are often believed to be necessary for future needs or for others’ benefit.

How to Help Someone Who Hoards

No matter the reason someone hoards, it’s essential to help them slowly and respectfully. Being surrounded by too much clutter can impede one’s quality of life and pose a safety risk.

An important first step is to have a non-judgmental discussion about how the behaviors are negatively affecting your relationship and express concerns about the loved one’s health and safety. Offering help and support to manage the clutter can make a difference.

When organizing the space, it’s important to avoid forced cleanouts and work together with the person who hoards. Categorizing items into keep, trash, or donate piles can be helpful. Offloading some items to a self-storage unit can also assist in the transition.

Getting to the root causes of hoarding is vital, and seeking professional help and practicing cognitive behavioral therapy can be the best approaches to address this issue.

Remember, progress may be slow, but with collaboration, patience, and empathy, improvements in emotional health and living conditions are achievable.


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